How Technology Is Changing The Behavior Of Risk Takers


Remember these stories?

  • September, 2015: Hungarian camerawoman Petra Laszlo is fired for tripping a migrant fleeing Syria. She was caught on video by another photo-journalist, and the video went viral on social media.
  • Walter Palmer kills Cecil the Lion on a sport hunting safari in Africa. He takes a photo with his kill, and the photo goes viral, vilifying Palmer. His dental practice was wrecked on Yelp and forced to shut down.

These are both examples of incidents where photos or video of someone doing something that the public perceived to be bad had a negative impact on the lives of those caught on camera. However, you don’t have to go hunting a beloved animal to see harsh consequences of your behavior.

  • A woman in the US was asked to resign after she posted a photo of her with a glass of wine, even though she wasn’t doing anything illegal.
  • A teen in Britain was let go after posting that her job was dull, even though she didn’t mention the name of the company.

Let’s face it. Apps are everywhere. Just walking down the street, you’re likely background in someone’s Instagram post; drive home in the evening and you’re probably part of the rush hour traffic that someone is whining about on Twitter. Even if you’re not overly connected, most of the world around you is. It’s not unusual to see strangers recording this misdeeds of others using their camera phone. Within minutes, that footage is edited and uploaded to a sharing app on their phone.

So what happens when we’re surrounded by not only cameras, but the potential for thousands of people to witness our acts within minutes? We take less risks.

While it’s prudent to think before you speak in public situations, and I certainly hope you aren’t running around looking for migrants to trip as they try to make it to freedom, I wonder if we’re quelling the risk-taking spirit for fear of being caught.

Growing up, how many times did you do something that, while not necessarily illegal, you probably shouldn’t have done? For me, the answer is dozens. I could probably think of hundreds, even, if I sat down and made a list. From stealing an extra cooke from the cookie jar to jumping the neighbor’s fence for a shortcut to my friend’s house, the list is pretty inclusive. Today, mom might know the instant that we take that extra cookie, thanks to apps like Manything, which could also allow the neighbor to record us as we scoot across his yard to hop the other fence to reach the best friend’s house.

Risk-taking is a natural part of growing up. From stealing that extra cookie to driving too fast, to balancing on an elevated bridge, anyone older than 25 has had the freedom to take these kinds of risks without the chance of immediate discovery. It’s a thrill, pushing the limits in a relatively healthy way, and it’s essential to our growth.

Risk takers grow up to be, well, risk takers. We wouldn’t have companies like Virgin Galactic if Richard Branson had never taken a risk. Elon Musk wouldn’t be trying to beat Branson into space if he had never taken a risk. It makes me curious what will happen, as today’s children grow up in a world where risk is less likely to occur in the relative safety of childhood and young adult hood. Will today’s kids who are too afraid of getting caught taking the risk turn into adults who never leap before they look? What will be the long-term effect on startups and entrepreneurial ventures if there’s no one left to risk it all?